Enrollment in the nation’s largest school system has dropped roughly 1.9% this school year, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the education department.
Roughly 938,000 students are enrolled in New York City’s public schools, down from about 955,000 last school year, when the system saw a significant decline related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Declining birth rates are playing a role, a department spokesperson said. Some families have left the five boroughs, opted for charter schools, private schools, or home school, though officials did not provide data that reveals to what extent those factors may be affecting the enrollment shift.
The city’s public schools have been shedding students well before the pandemic. The decline last school year was much more significant, though, with enrollment dropping by 4.7%. Overall, the city’s district schools now have 6.4%, or about 64,000, fewer students compared with the 2019-2020 school year, when the pandemic started.
Charter school enrollment has increased 3.2% this school year and now stands at 143,000, or roughly 13% of the city’s public school students. Though the cap on the number of charter schools that can open in New York City has been reached, schools may still phase in additional grade levels that have already been approved.
Enrollment trends matter considerably at the school level because the majority of school budgets are allocated on a per-student basis. If a school enrolls fewer students than the city projected, they may be forced to hand funding back, a practice that generated outsized criticism last school year, as some schools owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.
City officials wound up allowing schools to keep the funding they owed, and that policy will continue this school year, officials said.
School systems across the country have also experienced enrollment declines this year, including nearly 6% in Los Angeles and 3% in Chicago, the nation’s second and third largest districts.
“As the nation’s largest school district we’ve been impacted by the nationwide enrollment fluctuation that impacted schools across the country, and this data shows enrollment is stabilizing as we continue our City’s incredible recovery,” education department spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon said in a statement.
Considering the conditions in our schools, these numbers could have been worse.